As the weather heats up, so does the fun at the NC Outer Banks. Summer is prime time for outdoor activities like fishing, swimming, surfing, boating, kayaking, hiking, cycling, and so much more.
Here's what to expect during your summertime visit to these beautiful barrier islands.
Rising Temps and Refreshing Ocean Breezes
Perfect beach weather prevails throughout the Outer Banks' peak season, from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
By late May, the average OBX high temperature reaches the high 70s. By late June and throughout July, it edges into the high 80s, then dips slightly to the mid-80s by late August.
At the same time, balmy southwest breezes take the edge off the heat. So, you can feel comfortable outdoors most of the time - just be sure to wear light summer clothing!
Sunny days abound during this period, with occasional evening thunderstorms. Pack layers - sweaters and windbreakers - to be prepared for sudden changes in the weather.
The Sun-Loving Critters of Summer
Many animals love summer's sun and warmth just as much as we humans do. As you comb the Outer Banks beaches or hike through the maritime woods, keep an eye out for fascinating coastal critters like these:
- The wild horses of Corolla: Descendants of Spanish mustangs shipwrecked here during the 16th century, these beautiful feral ponies roam in small herds through the northern Outer Banks. They're shy, sweet, and docile, but do keep your distance: It's illegal to come within 50 feet of these government-protected beasts. Feel free to take plenty of pics, though. Even 50 feet away, you'll love watching these pretty ponies as they gambol along the shore. You can always take a Wild Horse Tour.
- Sea turtles: Five different kinds of sea turtles visit the Outer Banks. But perhaps the most eye-catching species is the giant loggerhead turtle, which can grow up to 3 feet long. Sightings are rare, but if you're here between early and mid-summer, you may spot a female loggerhead laying her eggs on the shore. Be sure not to disturb her - these vulnerable turtles are considered an endangered species.
- Dolphins: Have you ever watched dolphins as they frisk in the waves? It's an unforgettable sight. And, at the Outer Banks, it's also a pretty common one. Book one of the area's dolphin tours to see these magnificent mammals in their favorite summer habitat: the sounds of the Outer Banks.
- Shorebirds: From gulls to egrets, pelicans to sandpipers, sea birds flourish year-round at the NC Outer Banks. Walk along the shore - both ocean-side and sound-side - to watch these beautiful creatures as they soar, swoop, and skim the water in search of tasty prey. Also, consider a birding tour.
- Plus Alligators, Snakes, Black Bears, and Grey and Red Foxes: You'll occasionally spot more exotic critters at the NC Outer Banks. Take pics but be sure to steer clear!
Fish Are Jumpin' at the OBX
What's biting during the summer months? Plenty!
- Cast your line from the shore to reel in surfside favorites like drum, spot, flounder, croaker, pompano, striped bass, sea mullet, and Spanish mackerel.
- Charter an offshore excursion in search of blue marlin, white marlin, sailfish, wahoo, cobia, mahi-mahi, and yellowfin tuna.
- Fish the sound-side bays and inlets for striped bass, speckled trout, flounder, croaker, channel catfish, and more.
Plus, go shrimping, crabbing, and oystering - you don't even need a license as long as you follow the limits for daily catches.
With the ocean on one side and the sounds on the other, the Outer Banks offer endless options for watery fun and frolic. Depending on your interests and skills, you can enjoy:
- Swimming in the Gulf's temperate waters
- Surfing - you'll catch some impressive waves at Nags Head and Kill Devil Hills
- Kayaking, both surfside and sound-side
- Paddleboarding and SUP (Stand-Up Paddleboarding)
- Kiteboarding and kitesurfing
- Jet skiing and parasailing
- Sailing, canoeing, and boating - from bass boats to head boats to pontoon boats
Eager to try a new watersport? Outposts all up and down the NC Outer Banks - such as popular Kitty Hawk Kites - offer equipment rentals plus lessons for every skill level.
Stay Safe Throughout Your Visit
Blessed with pristine beaches and close-knit communities, the NC Outer Banks are remarkably safe overall. Still, it's always best to be prepared for potential problems. Here's what to watch out for during the summer months:
- Riptides and undertows: If you spot a sign warning of a rip current, take it seriously! Do not swim in that area until the danger passes. If you do get caught in a riptide, swim parallel to the shore until you're no longer pulled by the current; then head back toward the beach. If that's not an option, tread water and wave for help.
- Sunburn: No tan is worth the pain. So, before heading out to the beach, apply lots of sunscreen (30 SPF or above).
- Insect Bites: Flies at the beach, ticks on the trails, mosquitoes near the marshes...all these pesky pests can give you grief during summer vacation, no matter where you're traveling. Spray up with insect repellent to stay protected.